Watching Your Best Friend Die… And How To Deal With It

An interview with my mother.

‘When you think of death, you imagine nothing. I can’t think of her and imagine nothing.’

25th September 2015, 9pm, Ann, my mother received the news that her best friend Debbie’s cancer became more aggressive than ever. Debbie, my mother’s best friend of almost 4 decades, was recently relieved of her cancer that attacked her kidneys, liver and stomach, only through death.

‘Cancer is cruel, it strips you away as a person. You look at the person and sometimes you can’t even recognise them. They turn yellow, they are in pain constantly, it hurts them when they laugh, and their smiles seem like they take effort.’

The day after the bad news was spread, my mother began spending every spare moment with Debbie, I accompanied her 90% of the time. My mother lost her Father a few days after her wedding, and from then on, my Mother struggles with losing people, like everyone does. My mother became a beam of light for Debbie, always bringing meals, and magazines, taking Debbie outside when it was possible, trying to be positive about the situation.

‘As much as you are struggling to keep it together, you have to give that person the best time you possibly can. Things come to an end, life comes to an end, which is why we as human beings have to make the most of it. Sitting in the garden is a thing Debbie loved, she could hear birds, and the children leaving school around the corner from her house, the hustle and bustle of the world gave her that bit of life she needed.’

Debbie’s cancer had been with her for almost a year; sometimes it would go away, but it would always come back. Starting as Breast Cancer, she tackled her way through chemotherapy and radiotherapy whilst my mother patiently stayed with her, and would rub her back as Debbie vomited from the poisons of the therapies. However, that fateful day when the news was told to my mother, she was told that Debbie will not see the New Year. The cancer became so aggressive, it had spread and was not stopping anytime soon. A week later, Debbie moved into a MacMillan hospice, where she could access the pain relief medication, and have nurses to take care of her when my mother couldn’t.

‘It got to the point, where she was in so much pain; I wanted to take the pain from her and have me suffer instead. The pain relief only helped a little, she was constantly in pain. Her smiles became more effort for her, and when we laughed hard, she would hurt afterwards. She told me, ‘As much as it hurts, I want to laugh. I want to feel happy for some brief moments before I go.’ When she mentioned passing I always told her to be quiet. ‘Ann, you don’t know how badly I want to stay, but my body will not let me. You’ll have to laugh for me, and remember our decades of laughter and fun, shenanigans and beautiful, silly moments we’ve had. These are the moments that give me life.’

My mother, as she talks to me about this, is calm and collected. We sat in a coffee shop just two days after Debbie passed away; she did not well up or stumble on her words. She spoke softly, smiling as she spoke, with a distant memory glimmering in her eyes.

‘Watching her pass wasn’t easy. You don’t get over that easily, let me tell you. However, I’m glad she’s no longer in pain. You cannot watch someone you love dearly suffer any longer than I had. Her passing has liberated my mindset, I know this could all change soon, however, I have learnt a lot about how to deal with this grief of losing your bestest friend in the whole wide world.’

My mother having arranged the funeral along with Debbie’s partner Michael, has arranged what is going to be a beautiful day for all those that knew and loved Debbie.

Debbie

‘That is the day I officially say goodbye. She will always be with me. I will always talk to her when I am having a bad day; I will tell her that I miss her and wish she were still here. I will ask her if heaven is beautiful, and to reserve my seat next to her. I will talk to her about the fun times we had as reckless 21-year-olds. I will talk about how much fun you’re having as a reckless 22-year-old. And I know that she will be listening, she always did and always will.’

My mother has an action plan to deal with her grief.

‘Grief takes time. A LOT of time. But know that I am coping well. I want to pass the information on, and let people know that they are not alone. Death is inevitable. How you deal with it and grow from it is down to you. You are not weak, you are strong. Time will pass, and you will not feel this way forever.’

My mum withdrew from her bag, her notebook with scribbles and to do lists packing out of the seams and read;

‘Number 1. Take your time. Know that you can take as much time as you need. But one day, you are going to realise that your dearly passed beloved would not want you to be sad forever. It may feel like it, but time passes. Talk it out with other friends, cry over memories, and take your time.

Number 2. Preserve every memory you have. I have always kept photo albums, and I have about 10 photo albums purely dedicated to Debbie and I’s friendship over the past 4 decades. Look through them regularly, and remember the memories embedded within those snapshots. Never forget.

Number 3. Appreciate those who are still around you. Hug the ones you love, and be thankful that they are there. Seek support through them, small acts of kindness greatly improve your mind, and talking is therapy.

Number 4. Create a legacy. Be this charity donations or voluntary work. Help others. It is rewarding not only to you, helping you through this tough time. But you could affect someone else’s life in greater ways than you can imagine. At the end of January, I am dying my hair bright pink, and then at the charity pub gathering I am shaving it all off, all in the name of Debbie, the end to cancer, and the nurses who took care of her.

Number 5. Continue to love them, and love yourself because of them. As the days go by, I know I will adjust to life without Debbie. I learnt a lot from her. I’m so happy I got to spend 39 years of my life with her. She is responsible for many things in my life; meeting my husband, my love for UB40, my dirty sense of humour, and my ability to see the best in people.’

My mother smiled, and stated the interview was over. She was tired of talking and was hungry. She wanted a bath and to look through photo albums, have a glass of wine, and laugh with my dad at how silly Debbie’s haircut was back in ‘88.

Grief takes time. But we all learn from it.

 

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Why Women Should Look Into Using MoonCups

The blood isn’t that icky.

MoonCups and similar products have been around for quite a long time now, and I still marvel at the amount of my female friends that have no idea what they are. We are living in the world of technology and the internet. How do you not know?! With regards to women’s health matters, MoonCups are something that really could change things for women, of all ages, backgrounds and lifestyles.

I purchased my MoonCup last year in March; this was after I completed a short radio documentary surrounding the UK’s Tampon Tax. I interviewed Laura Coryton, I asked young women around university their thoughts, and did an analysis of the information I collected. One young woman introduced me to MoonCups, a product I had no clue of, and I then questioned why that was.

MoonCup is a product based company which is made by women, for women. Having won multi awards, I was astounded that I had not heard of them before. I looked on the website to find where I could order one myself, only to see that they are sold in Boots. How did I not notice these beautiful little lifesavers?!

I purchased a Size B (for women under 30 years old)  MoonCup from Boots for the small fee of £21.00. Once home, I watched the youtube video instructions to see what the general gist of it all was. I was amazed at how simple it looked through the lovely woman showing me how to bend the little silicone cup.

I’ll be honest with you, actually using the MoonCup for the first time took me about 20 minutes.

However, once I popped that thing up there, I couldn’t feel it. I questioned whether I had done it right, and panicked for another 20 minutes thinking I had lost it and would have to do a serious amount of vaginal excercises to get it out.

I googled (modern day cry for help) the right way of insertion; I had done it right. I relaxed, and sat down, still could not feel anything. This was great! I was actually a little bit more comfortable whilst on my period (!), you know, cramps were there still. I read the instructions stating that when I needed to empty my cup, to pull on the stem that just sits outside the labia, and empty the menstrual blood into the toilet, and then wash it out and reinsert. At first I was thinking, Ok, I have a couple of hours until I have to do this, definitely find a bathroom with a sink in there, not a public bathroom. I read the instructions further; depending on the flow of your menstrual flow, you could empty it between 4 and 8 hours.

I walked to my lecture, and sat bored out of my mind for 3 hours. I knew I wouldn’t have to empty for another hour at least, so I told my female friends about my new investment. ‘So you’re gonna like just store it all in that cup and just put it down the loo?’ said one of my friends. ‘Yep, and then I wash it in the sink and reinsert it.’ She looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. ‘You reuse it? What? No! Seriously?… Ok, I want to hear all about it when you do it, please?’

As I sat in a disabled bathroom on the top floor of my building that is nestled away, with a sink perfectly placed by the toilet, I emptied the cup to the toilet. I looked at the contents that had left my body, and looked quizzical. I looked at the redness of the toilet bowl, and marveled in the colour, I spoke to myself aloud.

That’s my blood. Not just any blood. Potential baby-making assisting/protecting blood. Magic blood. Moon Blood.’

I rewashed the cup in the sink, clearing the rest of the red away, until it looked spanking new again, and reinserted it (within 7 minutes!). I washed my hands with the soap provided, did a bit of a jiggle to make sure it was up there safely, and exited the bathroom with a smile on my face.

‘How was it?’ said my friend, eagerly awaiting the answer.

‘Liberating.’

The gist of the MoonCup from my first experience is; throughout duration of my period, I mustered the technique of insertion by the 3rd time I needed to change it. The instructions read that the MoonCup can last up to years providing that you clean it and use it properly. Until it splits or breaks, you’re good to go! From reading those instructions; I realised that I had spent £20 on something that will last for years; something that will save me a lot of money through the years. I calculated that if I continued buying Tampax Pearl,  I would have spent £27.48 within 12 months. I used to go through at least 1 box per month. The realisation that I would be saving nearly £30 a year on something that I cannot exactly control amazed me, particularly as a student. I had converted.

I will say it clearly, MoonCups are not for every woman. Each woman is different. However, MoonCups are branded as a ‘middle-class product’ or ‘ethically minded.’ I do not think this is the case; there are plenty of reasons why ALL women should simply research them and make a judgement for themselves.

They are eco-friendly; producing much less waste than products such as tampons and pads, which are non-recyclable. Being eco-friendly is something mankind should be looking into more considering the rate of climate change.

It’s discreet; when it’s inside you, you can barely feel it. When not in use, there’s a cute little pouch you can put it in and carry it around as you please in your bag.

There are plenty of health benefits; MoonCups are made from pure silicone. They are not bleached, fragranced or contaminated with God knows what. Due to a legal loophole, tampon and pad companies do not have to disclose what fragrances they use. Also, with the MoonCup you’ll never feel that little pang down there, and you can’t put your finger on what it is. It’s toxic-shock syndrome. Yep, TOXIC.

MoonCups allow you to embrace your menstrual blood. It’s not gross like the stigma usually entails. An incident happened whilst I was in between classes, where a guy I knew studying engineering walked past me with a bloody hand. He had wounded his finger on one of the big machines they have in one of the buildings, used to saw through heavy metal. I grabbed some tissues from my bag, and told him to put the pressure, and asked if I could look at it.

‘You don’t want to see it; there’s blood everywhere, it’s gross,’ he said, as he winced as I moved the tissue back from the wound to replace with fresh one.

‘You know that a lot of blood leaves my vagina every month for about 4 days. I’m kinda used to seeing a lot of blood.’ I replied, as I put a new tissue over the wound as we walked towards the reception desk.

‘Huh, I never thought about it that way.’

This interaction happened about on the 2nd day of my period; using the MoonCup for the first time. I smiled at my own thoughts embracing my body as a woman, who has these mystical, magical moon blood cycles (menstruation, if you want to be technical) and embraced my new way of thinking.

It’s about time we change our way of thinking.

 

How Amy Poehler’s Audiobook Stopped Me From Breaking Down on the Train

Monday 4th January, 9.45am train to Birmingham Moor Street. The first day back at university since before the Christmas break; I had to get back into the swing of final year uni stresses. A ‘good luck, Chick’ from my Mum and off I was ready to embrace the big push of final year’s final term.

For one of my modules, I am project manager; meaning I manage 47 other people (students…) for a ‘Two Week Takeover’ of our university’s student radio station. The stress is real. However, I enjoyed the stress before Christmas, I like being in control of certain elements of how things run, and I like giving out a positive mental attitude and motivating everyone to do well in this project.

But that Monday morning… by 7 am, I was let down by a member of my management team, again. By 7.30am, I had the social media team complaining and whining about a team member, asking me to do something about it. By 8 am I already had 10 other people messaging me with problems about this and that. By 8.30am, my assistant reminded me that she was not going to be with me this week because she had to train for her new BBC job. By 9 am, I remembered that I had forgotten (the irony) something extremely important to bring in for my Head of School. By 9.30am, I was worried I was going to miss the train because I did not sleep the previous night due to nerves about this morning. By 9.45am, I was on the train and needed to sit and breathe, I could feel the panic swelling in my gut, I could feel my brain swirling with so many names and numbers, and to do lists.

I usually read books on the train, but a few days prior to this incident, I gave Amazon’s Audible a try (free trial, of course, I am a student). I never usually read autobiographies, my mini library (shelf) at home consists of; Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, A Song of Ice and Fire series, Into the Wild, On the Road, and many more. No autobiography sat on my shelf, though.

I purchased Yes Please! by Amy Poehler with my free credit, (thank you student perks) and began the book on January 2nd. Amy Poehler’s voice has made me laugh when she discussed her time on SNL, and her early career. Her parents voices have made me gush when they spoke about her as a child, Kathleen Turner’s voice made me shiver as she read an excerpted passage about the good ol’ days of the 80s, and Seth Meyer’s voice made me smile like the Cheshire Cat when he read his own written passage about his best friend Amy.

 

 

AMY2

 

On the train, I began to feel sick, I had 10 people calling me. 23 emails came through. 12 Facebook notifications. All regarding this uni project. I began to crumble. I could feel my breaths get quicker and shallower. My eyes started to water up. It was coming. I looked up towards the dim lights on my London Midland train and shuffled about saying excuse me to the business type, smartly suited gentleman as he gruntled. My cheeks were flushed, and I could feel the burst of tears about to happen trying to get out of my eyes.

And then Amy spoke to me.

‘Apology letter from the brain.’

I turned the volume up, and tried to centralise and focus.

‘Hey there, I’m sorry, ok, can I something, I admit I am not perfect. No one is perfect. That is a fact. Speaking of facts, don’t you think we all need to take a minute to decide who is right and who is wrong, every side is different, but it seems my side is more right. I’m not just saying that because it’s my side, I think a lot of people would agree with me if given the chance. If i upset you in some way, please know that wasn’t my intention, I didn’t know how sensitive you were, it’s obvious I can set you off very easily. That’s not an insult, it’s just an observation. I think it would help if we could talk about this more, and argued about this more of who is telling the truth. I would like to see you in person and tell you how the situation has affected me, I may use this opportunity to bring up other times you have hurt me in the past; if possible, I would like to hurt you back. Either way; I want to be in control. Until then, take care, and please remember I reached out first.

I remain,

The Brain.’

I focused on Amy’s voice, pretty much telling me that it was my brain thinking this way. My brain is in control of my almost – panic attack/burst of tears/breakdown. I stopped overthinking what was happening on my phone, wiped my eyes, took a sip from my water bottle and continued to listen.

‘Apology letter from the Heart’

I was ready for this one. I needed Amy to tell me it was going to be ok.

‘Hey there,

I’m sorry, I found it hard to tell you this, and I realised my apology maybe too little or come too late. It is important for me to let you know that I’m sorry for what I did or said, or what I didn’t do or say. I was wrong. I make mistakes, I hate that I made one with you. I’m reaching out because life goes by so fast, and I just don’t want my one life to go by without expressing this to you. I want to do and be better.

This apology is yours, feel free to do whatever you want with it. My hope is that it gives you comfort but my goal is that it doesn’t cause you any pain.

Again, I am truly sorry.

Thank you again for taking the time to read this.

Love,

The Heart.

P.S. I’m Sorry.’

Within that brief moment, Amy Poehler was my saviour. Her voice and words told me that it was ok to feel like sh*t when you’re out of control. When you’re not in control, that’s when anxiety kicks in.

I am also a person like Amy, who apologises way to often, even when things are not my fault. I stopped scratching at my arms, (a habit I have when things are not going so well) and said sorry to myself for causing horrid, raw lines all over my forearm, and gently rubbed them.

I finished chapter 11; 2 minutes, 23 seconds, I blew out a sigh of relief and looked towards the window, and realised things would not be so bad. It is true that as long as you have control, you control what can happen to you.

And for the first time, I had control over a panic attack/breakdown.

Audiobooks I have found, is a nice easy way to deal with tough times, especially when you feel completely overwhelmed with the amount on your plate. Having someone who is successful and someone you admire tells you about how they were in your position once, and how they overcame it, is actually pretty soothing and encouraging. I heavily advise those that suffer mental health problems to try audiobooks, whether you want to listen to Harry Potter (most likely my next audiobook), but I do advise an autobiography by someone who is successful and someone you admire. Tina Fey; Bossypants, you are next.

(An open letter to Amy Poehler.)

Amy,

Thank you. Thank you for your honesty, and your words. Thank you for being real, and teaching me to love myself, and to remember that I am in control of what happens to me and my future. Thank you for making me laugh and cry both at the same time. Thank you for empowering me as a young woman, and sticking up for women and being a true inspiration to me.

Please continue being who you are.

Love, (because I love you and you are awesome.)

Siobhan

Addressing the Not-so “Apathetic” Generation

40% of UK residents didn’t vote in the 2010 election, and the numbers haven’t gotten any lower for the amount of people registering to vote for this year’s General Election on May 7th. This general election is one of the most unpredictable elections we’ve had in decades, with the registration deadline coming to a close; nobody really knows what could happen.

My generation; that is those affected by the tripled tuition fees, need to vote, I urge you to. If we don’t start to vote now, in 20 years, we will still have no idea how to interact with the electoral system. There is a reason why a lot of people my age aren’t lining up outside village halls and primary schools on May 7th.

It’s not because we’re stupid, or naïve, or “apathetic.” Nor are we inspired by Russel Brand’s “Don’t Vote/Revolution.” It is simple. We are confused, ill-informed, but most of all – we are ignored.

“I always thought your generation was a bit apathetic about politics in general; since 9/11, the world has changed and the way we see people, you don’t trust anyone. You are the future generation, you have the right to shape your future and make that change. Your generation is distracting themselves with iPhones, social media, celebrities, and a long list of irrelevant things, from the harsh reality pf the world you choose not to face.”

My mother said that to me, when I was debating whether to register to vote or not. She pointed out that I sign plenty of online petitions, to save the bees, or addressing feminist issues; but I ignore the Westminster boys fighting over my vote. “You are political, you know what you want. You want change, right? Go and read something,” as she slammed down Labour and the Green Party’s manifestos in front of me.

“People all over the world, in eastern countries such as Iran, they fight for their right to vote. They could get killed. Women died so you could have your right to vote. Stop underappreciating your rights.”

After researching and educating myself in a short amount of time about UK politics, it is obvious to me, that things need to change. I am tired of hearing the word apathetic to describe people my age. The story is that we hate politics; or to use the most popular phrase; ‘we’ve lost faith in it, we think all politicians are the same’ so we don’t vote.

I want to prove these theories wrong. To tell young people that they do not care about politics is simply wrong. Our generation may just be the most political in history, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter and blogs, we as a generation are analysing and commenting on the world around us on a far greater scale than our parents. We are a much more welcoming generation; we accept different walks of life, cultures, sexualities. We embrace these differences.

We marched in our 1000s against the war in Iraq, the fight against tuition fees, and for fairer alternatives to the economic masochism of the coalition government. We do care. Student activism and politics is a phenomenon that is growing and will always continue to.

“There was nothing at my university that would give us information on politics, literally bare to nothing. I wanted to change that,” said Laura Peberday, creator of Scratch Politics at Birmingham City University.

“There’s an attached stigma to politics; that you must be smart to understand it. WRONG. I wanted to talk politics in plain English, so young people could understand, and take an interest, and hopefully make a difference.”

An example of student activism is the No More Page 3 Campaign, possibly one of the most important socio-political movements of the decade. It was the brainchild of 20 somethings spread through social media, receiving most of its support through student unions.

The young generation is constantly churning out videos, songs, stories, plays, flashmobs, and slutwalks, challenging every societies’ gender norms, to post-modernist theories. In a sense, we are doing politics better. So why is it that the public and politicians opinions seem to be that we’re apathetic? It’s probably because we keep getting told we are. This story is paraded by print media, TV, and somewhat contradictory, politicians themselves.

Politicians are waging a public policy on us ‘millenials’. We’ve been charged the highest tuition fees in Europe, denied housing, and expecting us to spend an indefinite amount of time working for free, trying to get a foot in the door.

None of this will stop me, nor should it stop you. Change needs to happen. It may not happen this election, and may not even be the next one. Change is slowly happening, and the cracks are beginning to show in society. We are a much more connected society, with smart phones, and e-petitions and a more accepting collected mind set, we are a much more switched on generation.

Do not let the untrustworthy faces of Clegg and Cameron deter you from taking an interest in politics. We all need to grow up and do grown up things; like taking control on what happens to our future.

Register to vote at gov.uk

Take a quiz to see which political party you side with at uk.isidewith.com/political-quiz

Take a listen to this documentary addressing the issue, guaranteed to make you wake up, and have a giggle at the same time.

https://soundcloud.com/lisavioletwilliams/the-student-vote-documentary

Work Experience at Scratch Radio

Over the past 2 and a half years, whilst studying at Birmingham City University, I have volunteered at the student Radio Station Scratch Radio, located at our brand new campus Parkside in the city center. Scratch Radio is a also a community station, it provides a wide range of music and content 24/7, and with a variety of different presenters and topic based shows, there is something for everybody! If you’re over 18 and have an interest in radio, there will be something for you, so if anybody is local and wants to help out, do something new and fun, then email contact@scratchradio.co.uk !!!

Presenting and producing a number of different  shows has taught me so many valuable lessons that will help me further my career. Back in 2012, when Chicago Week (celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Sister City Link between Birmingham and Chicago) I presented a music based show, where we compiled different tracks from artists that were from both cities; such as Kanye West and Black Sabbath; we experienced a few technical difficulties; the play out system was in the old studios back in Perry Barr. However, these hiccups during the show, only taught me how to react quickly in critical live air situations, teaching me how to recover the show despite things going wrong. I also presented a show with another team, based on Christmas time, as it was the run up towards Christmas; where we played out our group effort produced Birmingham Christmas Market documentary; which was full of content that we had recorded from going to the markets in the city. The markets were always really busy and always had a great atmosphere, I recorded vox pops (mini interviews in the street) with market goers. My time helping out with Chicago Week taught me much about team work, and communication. Communication is key for success, you need to be direct and clear with your team to produce something brilliant, and it pays off!

Foundation Week, in 2013, where I presented a variety of breakfast and morning shows on Scratch Radio; in teams we were able to be much more creative with our show’s content, providing much more in depth, but fun content. This week, I learned how to use my creativity and produce something original and different, and that it is all in the detail that’s what makes thing count! By also spending a lot of time in the studios, I now feel comfortable with using all of the brand new equipment we have at the new Parkside Building.

This year, I am continuing to volunteer for Scratch Radio by producing a weekly show, with my peers Harriet Noble and Lisa Williams; where it will be an afternoon show, full of silly games and top tips for studying to help our fellow students out! More updates will follow once the shows have started!

Dear Mum; I am okay

Mother dearest,
I apologise for my absence recently but that is because I have been absent with myself. I’ll be honest and you’ll probably think I’m being dramatic, but I believe I may be going through my quarter-life crisis. Or mid-life one come early or whatever.

Now, call me dramatic, call me silly, but I am not the only one of my age who has been going through a similar thing. Many people I know have struggled with similar fears and thoughts, and it isn’t just me! This is a thing that my generation HAVE to go through. I’ve cried countless nightsC and spent hours in bed questioning existence, and my imagination getting the worst of me. This is happening because this crisis is basically a reality kick in the bollocks for me and here’s why;

1. It’s come to my attention, that I am going to be eternally in a horrendous amount of debt. The only way of avoiding these debts is if I run away abroad for five years (ride some dolphins, probably lose myself in the jungle) but what’s that going to teach me? That I just run away from my problems? Nahhhh, that’s one thing you’ve taught me, Mother. Be fearless with problems. I know I have to work hard to pay off this debt, but it hopefully be worth it!

2. I’m getting old. As much as I’ll only be 21 this year, this is still scary milestone in my scary yet wonderful path of life. Turning 21 means that I will be forever an adult. I’ll no longer be a child, I’ll be going into my twenties, where my wine consumption will amazingly increase. I want to be a child always, and have no cares in the world, and yet, still rocking a full fringe. However, I’ve had to learn to accept this. That the only way is up, and I am scared but soooo excited. I didn’t even know that was possible.

3. I’m surrounded by new faces. And sadly, I don’t get to see yours every day, Mother, but know I’m thinking of you. In the beginning of my ‘growing up spiritual adventure’ I could never tell which people were good for me, and those who were bad for me. I think I have it figured out now. It’s been hard drifting from friends and family, however, I never forget. I know who is good for me; the ones that do things to make me smile, those who look after me with genuine care when I can be worse for wear, and people that listen to my ramblings. They bring good energy, and I couldn’t be happier with the people surrounding me, and you are one of them. I may not see you as much as we’d both like, but you’re the best mate I’ve got, Mother.

4. My health. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t have a healthy diet. I like my food. That’s not right. I LOVE MY FOOD. and Mama Bowater you fed me soooo good the past 20 years, you really are a great cook! I’d still kill for your roast dinner! However, since moving away from home, my diet is not as nice, and not nearly enough wholesome for a 20 year old woman. I survive off leftovers, beans on toast, endless cups of tea, and cigarettes. I’ve learnt to better my diet when I can afford it (WHY IS HEALTHY FOOD SO EXPENSIVE?!) and do as much exercise as much as possible…(walking counts right?) Mother, when you say ‘you look thin, Siobhan,’ don’t worry, I’m probably losing the last of my baby weight, OR, I’ve just spent all my wages on a night out or clothes instead of food. But, it was my choice to do that wasn’t it? And I only have myself to blame. But, I’m happy with my body and my health. I do look after myself more than people think. However, I will always accept your food parcels you slide my way…

5. Money. Now, Mother, sit back in your chair, I know, I know you said that I would never have to worry about money. That you’d always have my back. And I can never be more thankful knowing that. BUT, I’m gonna pay you back as much as I can, no ifs, no buts Mum, I’m working hard to do that for you. Yes, it means working 2 jobs, but I’m learning to support myself, and yeah it’s tough, but I’ve also learned that I’ve just got to deal with it. We made a promise, that I would get you to meet Jon Bon Jovi, remember? I’m working on it, so keep fiddling with your hair and applying lipstick ready for my call for when he’s waiting to meet you.

6. Spiritual Awakening. I’ve woken up and smelt the shit. I get it. I am acknowledging all the energies around me and I take them in, I’ve had a restored faith in humanity and I see the good in all things. It’s all explained in the Yin Yang for me. Call me a hippie, but I’d rather that than be a Catholic. Now I know not to speak ill of anyone, but I know that some things are not for me; religion. And you, Mother and I both know that it was never going to be my path as soon as I understood what was actually going on. Call me a realist, but that’s fine, this is reality, and this is me accepting it.

7. The foreseeable future. This scares the bejesus out of me. The one thing that panics me is not seeing myself in the future, or not knowing where I could be. I don’t know what’s going to happen after university, I don’t know who I’ll be with, where I’ll be living/working? Nobody does. BUT if I want to get you to meet Jon Bon Jovi, I kinda get what sort of choices I need to make to make that happen. My future is shaped by the choices I make, and I really do hope I’m making all the good ones!

Top tip for anybody is going through a quarter life crisis; stop overthinking EVERYTHING. Trust me, you’ll hopefully figure it out like I have.

Mum, I hope I am doing you proud. I really do, I only wish I could carry you around in my bag and show you all my daily adventures; from getting my sass on at work, or doing ‘cool fun stuff on the radio’ like you say, and just show you that you needn’t not worry as much as you’d think. That I am fine, and although I have been an expert liar for years with those words ‘I’m fine’ I do mean it this time. Things are exciting and scary, but do you remember that feeling about something in your past? I’ve learnt a lot, and if it wasn’t for you having my back, things wouldn’t be the same.

I’m fine, and I mean it.

I’ve questioned almost every aspect of my life, and I’ve learnt to accept it. Faults and all. My own faults too. I’m working on the life you’ve dreamed for me, and for my own dreams.

So meet up with Jon Bon Jovi is still in the works, I promise.

I love you always, and forever Mother Goose,

From your chicken,
Siobhan xoxoxo

P.S. Please can I have a food parcel?
P.P.S. I love you.

For anyone going through the same ‘crisis’ as me, you’re not alone. Be honest, and it sounds shite, but you have to learn a lot of things, about yourself and your life. I promise things do get better! You just have to sit by yourself and teach yourself to stop overthinking everything. Realise that there is good in your life, and appreciate it. Learn what brings badness into your day, and get rid of it. You’ll have to figure it out, but know there are people that will listen and help you through. Roll on the mid life crisis!!!

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‘Did you actually just call me a Wench?’

Working in a bar/nightclub has it’s perks; the people, the music, ‘banter’ with customers, tips, making cocktails and all that jazz. However, being female bar staff, everyday sexism is brought to your front door. And MATE, I can tell you how bad it gets for 20 year-old- woman working in a bar.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to put anyone off taking or applying for a bar/nightclub job, if anything I encourage it. Especially my fellow students who are looking for a part time job. My current position as bar staff has been my favourite part time job, I’ve made some awessssome friends and have never had a bad shift. Trust me, go do bar work at least once, just to try it, and I’m 99% sure you’ll like it.

But, females, beware. You will have to prepare yourself for being objectified while you’re working. But do not stand for it. You’re not there to be gawked at, or have rude proposals asked of you, or just being harassed by some customer who is extremely desperate for your number.

One Saturday night, in the heart of Birmingham, there I was in my workplace, pouring a pint of Carling for a reveller. A young man, no older than 21, and about 2 foot shorter than me asking for my number a total 5 times in 3 hours. All we’re rejections, but for different reasons, as I conducted my own sneaky social experiment.
My first answer: *fake gushes/pretends to be really flattered etc* Awh sorry, no… *awkwardly pretends to be needed in the staff room*…
Second answer: ‘ha, awh sorry, you’ve already asked me, the answer is still a no, I’ve got a boyfriend.’
Third answer; ‘haha, sorry, no. I’m really happy with my boyfriend, and no, I do not want a ‘bit on the side.”
Fourth answer; ‘look, I’m not giving you my number. Now, if you don’t mind I’ve got to go collect some glasses.’
Final answer; when I was collecting glasses from the dance floor and booths, carrying 8 glasses stacked in one hand, and a half empty pitcher/partini, this guy asked me once more for my number, without even trying to help me out of my struggle of carrying way too many glasses. He would not let me go anywhere else, while I’m slowly losing grip of everything that was in my hands. The social experiment was pushing my limits with this particular participant. ‘Look mate, the truth is, I don’t think my girlfriendwould be very happy about it. And trust me you’re far from my type.’

His reply? ‘Oh god, I am so so sorry! I won’t ask again.’

My findings: why is no not enough for men? Why do I have to give a reason for saying no? Why do I have to pretend to be gay for guys to leave me alone? Is my 5 year relationship not a good enough reason to say no?

Another example; I was called a. Wait for it. WENCH. It’s 2014. Are you having a laugh? Now, I didn’t take this ‘you’re a good looking wench, you are’ statement too well. But, you know, the customer’s always right… are they???

I did what I do best, get my sass on up. Resting bitch face on, and a turn of the heel, and power walked, pulled a pint, and handed it to him. ‘Good girl’ he said. Pahahahaaaaaaaa, so clever. I smiled, shook his hand, and said, ‘just so you know, if you call me a wench again, I will not serve you, I’ll get you kicked out. If I hear you calling one of my colleagues a wench I’ll make sure you get kicked out too. You’re in 2014, I’m a WOMAN not a wench. I know the confusion, ’cause I can’t figure out if you’re a man or not?’ Cue awkward fake laughter and smiles, and he said no more.

Working in a bar has brought out the feminist in me, it’s brought out a particular attitude in me. I’m sure I’m not the only one too, I’ve heard many a horror story from bar staff. I’m just telling you only a snippet of my experiences.

Even men have sexism thrown at them whilst working in a bar. And sometimes women can be far nastier at times too. Trust me.

I’m just shouting out to my fellow cocktail waitresses, pint pullers, glass collectors, all the crappy cleaning job guys, everyone. Just a reminder, don’t be the basic bitch they think you are. Be the boss bitch. Take the upper hand, remind them that you are providing them a service, you will not be spoken to rudely or harassed. You have the power. We’re not basic bitches. And we are DEFINITELY not wenches.

Cheerio for now!
Xoxoxo

Russia’s LGBT community and their so-called ‘Human Rights’

I’m currently in the process of making a short 10 minute radio documentary on the lack of Human Rights for the LGBT community in Russia. I’ve been researching the subject for the past week, and some of the things I’ve read are absolutely horrific. (I’ll get to them later!) I mean, come on, Russia wake up and smell the 21st century for crying out loud.

Now, my message isn’t to bring controversy or anything along the lines of it, my message is simple; Love is Love, Love is All. Having watched about 100 videos into LGBT petitioners in Russia, they are only asking for one thing; Equality and Dignity. WHY are human beings still preventing other human beings from those simple privileges. This is reality people. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people in the UK have it so lucky here; and I couldn’t be happier about it, but I’ll never understand how homophobic ‘logic’ works elsewhere in this world.

Now, I’m making my documentary as the Winter Olympics are vastly approaching, they’re being held in Sochi in Russia. Now someone who has took a stand, and a political stand is Mayor Wendy Flynn of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire here in the UK. She has stated she will not travel to Sochi (Sochi is a twin town of Cheltenham, and there’s a possibility of an invitation for her to travel. FULL ARTICLE: http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Mayor-travel-Russia-Games/story-20019741-detail/story.html#axzz2keKWyQ7n) due to her views on human rights issues. She mentions that ‘Russia does not give people a voice.’ The Mayor could not have worded this more perfectly.

The introduction of the law banning gay ‘propaganda’ where people can be FINED for ‘spreading homosexual information’ onto 18 year olds. Not only is this now a law, but the rising amount of attacks on LGBT people is alarming. The attackers are often ‘shaven headed young men often wearing Nazi insignia.’ HELLOOOOOOOOO. Does anybody else not see what’s going on? This is human cruelty, where people will beat up and humiliate someone for their sexual orientation. My friend Charlie (http://charliependlebury.wordpress.com/ CHECK HER OUT) could not have put it more perfectly; It’s simply genitalia that makes the difference. But why does that give anyone the right to do such things as lure a young gay man of 18, into thinking he was meeting another gay man, and then to shave his head, try to force him to have intercourse with a cat, perform oral sex onto inanimate objects, whilst being filmed, with his soul slowly being battered and beaten. The humiliation, the pain these people must go through.

How is it any different such as racism? Sexism? There is no difference. So how is this still continuing? HOW IS IT EVEN A LAW? This year has been awesome for the LGBT community in other parts of the world; Gay marriage is legal in many different parts of the world, such as here in the UK, the US, Canada, Brazil, Denmark, France, South Africa, New Zealand, not to mention countless others. Where in Russia, you couldn’t even say ‘Gay is OK’ without being called a criminal. You couldn’t have a child with your partner. LOVE IS LOVE AND LOVE IS ALL. Whether that child has two mums, two dads, who gives a shit? If those parents love each other, provide a loving home and love their child, WHAT DOES IT MATTER? ‘Oh, yeah but then there’s a problem that the child could be gay?’ Why is that a problem? At the end of the day, in life, it is our right to reproduce, it is our right to hold our child in our arms, to love that child with our whole beings.

As a race, we have beaten slavery, we have beaten racism, we’re on our way to fully beating sexism, we’ve beaten Hitler, we’ve fought wars. We overcame all that. So how is homophobic attacks still happening? LOVE IS ALL. I cant say anything more than that.

If people think they’re a good person by beating up people because of their sexuality, then people really need to re-evaluate what type of person they are. (Charlie again!)

People need to open their eyes, and smell the homophobia in the world. And help support those who need it; for love, equality and dignity. DO IT FOR THE GAYS! Not because they’re ‘fabulous’, because they are human beings. Do we not all deserve the same rights? The rights to have a baby? The rights to get married to the one they love? The rights to walk down the street hand in hand with their loved one? The rights to not be ashamed of who they are?

 

 

THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK – SOME PEOPLE JUST LIKE CAKE OK?!

I cannot express how much ‘think before you speak’ is relevant to everybody. And I mean everybody. Whether you’re a Government PM, a revolutionist or even a young child writing some idiotic ‘status’ on your so-called ‘opinion’.

This post was inspired by something I had seen posted on my Facebook timeline, where this person expressed her ‘opinion’ on people’s weight. And I quote;

‘if you’re above a size 12 you need to get a grip sort yourself out’ excuse the awful grammar…

at the end of the day your FAT and only have YOURSELF to blame…’ MY GOD. THE GRAMMAR IS KILLING ME TYPING THIS.

This post is not an attack on this individual, it is simply an example of the amount of people who do not think before they speak. I saw this status earlier today; and within 2 hours, there appeared to be a vast amount of people commenting on this ‘status’. 81 to be precise…

If you going to express your views, ALWAYS think and evaluate before you publicise it. Even if it is on Facebook. If it’s controversial/racist/sexist you’re going to hurt someone even if you didn’t mean to. Example; the Facebook status above may have insulted mothers, mothers who have a curvy beautiful body, giving life from those beautiful bodies, who struggle to lose weight because they are constantly looking after their beautiful children. It may have insulted people with health issues, a middle aged man, who had always taken hair of himself, maybe struggling with a bad thyroid problem. Some people just have big bones. Some people eat cake BECAUSE THEY FUCKING WANT TO.

People may be ‘fat’ BUT is there any reason for people to point that out? To tell them that they need to be a size 8-10 so it’s deemed more ‘natural and healthy’ (another quote from that status may I add) is no right of anyone’s. It’s none of your business to complain about other people’s appearances, because how would YOU like it if someone called you names, and told YOU to PUT ON WEIGHT. If you’re unhappy with people’s appearances and their so called ‘fat’ then that’s your problem. Get a grip on reality and realise everybody’s different, even in weight and body size and shapes. Because clearly you didn’t think before you spoke; people realised how much of a small minded person you could be.

Now I am a size 12. I’m 20 years old, 5ft 5, probably weigh about 11 stone, (I don’t tend to bother with ‘weight’) I have boobs and an arse. I like to drink with my friends, I smoke my roll ups, I walk a lot, and I eat relatively healthy (apart from the occasional pizza/chocolate/cookies/bacon sandwiches/ducks in pancakes/fuck loads of Mexican food and so on.) But I’m happy with my appearance. I did go through a time where I had very low self esteem, and I know the pain people suffer, where they hate what they see in the mirror. Where you have to do so many retakes of photos where your arms or chin looks ‘ok.’ Where you don’t want to leave the house because ‘nothing looks right.’ People with low self esteem do not to hear your ‘opinions’ on size 16 people. Nor should you ‘need’ to voice them.

The moral of this post, is NOT to voice your views or opinions. I am all for free speech. I adore free speech. BUT, all I am asking, is that you THINK before you SPEAK. People will not only respect you more, but they will actually listen to you…

Procrastination? Or are you making up excuses?

Being in my second year at university, the whole assignment/essays/’God, once this is over I’m going to get sooooooooo wasted’ workload has come a lot easier. I now know to get my assignments done as soon as possible, so I have more free time, rather than sitting on Buzzfeed or ASOS, or watching cat videos over and over again, leaving me one week to produce/interview/edit/mix a shed load of audio into a tiny 10 minute documentary. The stress is not worth it. The all nighters and stress eating is not worth it. Having that feeling of pure relief and excitement of freedom to get ‘absolutely sloshed’? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

However, it’s not all about doing assignments and rewarding yourself with some rip off watered down Vodka in some ridiculously cheap club, that you cant help but love because you know you’re a student, and the floor always welcomes you when you fall/pass out or vomit that watered down Vodka. It’s about actually doing well in your course. For most people at university, the mentality of students is to get a really top grade from their degree and get a really top notch job when you return home and into your new life. For myself; university is the beginning of my new life. Shit is real now, whether I like it or not.

Throughout my second year, considering it’s only been almost 3 months into this year, a lot of things have gone into motion within my career. For one, the second year blues have definitely kicked in… (http://lisavioletwilliams.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/second-year-blues/ IT’S TOTALLY TRUE) so this year is all about preparing myself for the next part in my life. I have 3 assignments to complete within the next few weeks; a 10 minute documentary on Everyday Sexism ‘What age does catcalling stop at?’, a 1 hour live show about the love story of Beyoncé and Jay Z (no judgements please!) and also to start up my blog!

However, as much as I am getting my work into motion, it pains me when I see people who are still constantly sitting around doing nothing, not realising the consequences of their actions. And the worst pain, THE WORST; is when people sit and complain about how much work they have to do and how little time they have. You cant make excuses anymore. I’ve stopped making excuses, and have learnt how to differentiate and prioritise my time. This is not a post criticising students, it’s simply advice, from one ‘ex-procrastinator’ to those still stuck in those ‘cat videos/ASOS/BuzzFeed’ distraction/addiction phase.

So for my first piece of advice:

  1. Prioritise your time. You can get drunk as much as you want once your assignment is done.
  2. Grab some sense of reality. Watch Jeremy Kyle; do you really want to end up like one of those middle aged, toothless, benefit reliant slobs? Or do you want to do what you’ve always dreamed of doing? Do you want to do what you’re paying thousands of pounds (and will end up in debt when your degree is over) and become the success you know you want?
  3. Find a starting point. The hardest part of completing an assignment/work task is finding a place to start; whether you just need to get up earlier, plan things in advance, if you’re really stuck, you wont even realise how many people will give you help and advice, just ask your tutors, family and friends.
  4. Find a place to work harder than you’ve ever imagined. If you know you work better and more efficiently at your university campus, head to the library. If there’s a particular class room that gets your gears in movement, go there when there’s no class occupying it. If you work better alone in your room, go, put some music on, and put your big hungover thinking cap on. But DO NOT try to work in environment that is full of distractions; whether it be a TV on in the living room/in your own room where you know your Xbox is just whispering to you ‘come on Siobhan, just play me! Complete GTA 5 and you’ll be so happy’ NO XBOX. I have work to do. YOU CAN WAIT.
  5. Stop making excuses for yourself. If you know you have work to do, just get on with it. Stop blaming other things or in some cases even PEOPLE for your own ‘procrastination.’ ‘I cant do my work because my friends are going out to get drunk and I kinda have to go, and I know I wont get any work done anyway…‘ I’m sorry to be frank, but you’re not only bullshitting to me and whoever, but more importantly yourself. You can do work if your friends are going out having fun, because you NEED to do your work in order to achieve your goal. YOU can go get drunk when your work is finished, because you will have earned it. AND your friends, I’m sure will be more than merry to get drunk WITH YOU.

As much as my tips seem kind of harsh in a way, if you do procrastinate, you’ll never know the relief you have of when your work is over and completed, and you can do all your favourite things as much as you want. You wont need to stay up all night working on something that’s meant to be handed in within the next 6 hours. Trust me, from one Buzzfeed addict and procrastination junkie to many others out there. Just get on with it.